The very best home office productivity tips focus on keeping you focussed on the job in hand. There are plenty of concentration-boosting working practices that translate well in a home office setting, such as taking regular breaks, writing lists and time management. But if the environment you are working in is cluttered, badly lit, noisy, or even depressing, getting motivated and staying motivated will become a daily struggle.
Allocating a designated workspace away from your home’s sociable areas and the temptations of the refrigerator is a great place to start with your home office ideas. It doesn’t have to be a huge space, but it does need to be reasonably quiet during your working hours and ideally include a window for eye-strain relieving screen breaks.
One of the main downsides of working from home compared to a commercial office is you won’t get the same specialist help with setting up your desk, monitor and chair ergonomically. To avoid strains and discomfort that can impact productivity, workplace design consultant Emma Morley offers this advice on organizing a home office: ‘Your screen should be at arm’s length away and at, or slightly below, eye level,’ she says. ‘If you work on a laptop – use a laptop stand or pile of books. The position you’re aiming for is that your head should be vertical to your neck. This will reduce the strain on your neck, shoulders, and back.’
Home office productivity tips
Even if your WFH options are limited to the void under the stairs or an alcove in the dining room, there’s a lot you can do in terms of your home office setup to maintain concentration levels while you’re clocked on. We have picked our 10 best home office design tips, including plenty of expert advice, to help you stay on track with home office productivity.
1. Maximize natural daylight
There are lots of great home office lighting ideas to illuminate your workspace, but often it is natural light that most improves our mood and wellbeing, not to mention enthusiasm, at work.
‘Ideally you should position your desk next to a window to enjoy the best natural light levels,’ says interior designer Chantel Elshout. ‘However, direct sunlight can be blinding and make it difficult to see your computer screen at certain times of the day. Adjustable window treatments, like plantation shutters, are a real savior and can be tilted as the sun moves to keep the sun out of your eyes while maintaining decent natural light levels overall.’
2. Make room to move
If you’re lucky enough to have a spacious home office, it’s worth taking the time to consider all the layout options for the desk. A desk positioned centrally is far more enticing than one rammed up against a wall or tucked tight into the corner – and this will help with your home office productivity.
‘Positioning a desk centrally within a home office or workspace creates a centered feel which is beneficial to maintaining an ordered and calming space in which to work,’ agrees Louise Wicksteed, design director, Sims Hilditch. ‘A centrally placed desk also allows for adequate storage space to be built or placed against all four walls of the room if necessary, helping to keep the space uncluttered.’
3. Go for calm, nature-led decor
Spending time in nature lowers stress, decreases blood pressure and boosts creativity so it makes sense to take design cues from nature when looking for home office paint colors.
‘Creating visual connections with nature – via colors, materials and textures – can make working inside all day much more tolerable,’ says interior designer Fiona Duke. ‘The calming effects of nature-led color schemes are well documented, and they can genuinely help improve productivity and reduce attention fatigue.’
Here, the soothing green-gray tones of Farrow & Ball’s French Gray creates a relaxed environment, while connecting visually with the leafy views outside.
4. Tidy desk, tidy mind!
A cluttered workspace can be extremely distracting and spending time searching for essentials amid the chaos can also waste precious time. Organizing a desk and keeping it organized will increase home office productivity and reduce stress. Clearing away everyday detritus like notepads, junk mail and completed lists is easy but for a really clean desk, it pays to tidy up permanent fixtures, too.
‘One way to keep a desk uncluttered is to hide away all the cables associated with IT via well considered cable management. For example, pop up outlets or cables hiding inside the legs of the desk,’ says interior designer Charu Gandhi of Elicyon.
5. Make it personal
In large, corporate office spaces, the décor has to appeal to a wide range of roles but at home you can afford to personalize to suit your career.
‘A home office is an incredibly individual space as each of us has totally different requirements as to what enhances our work environment and increases home office productivity,’ explains interior designer Elizabeth Hay.
‘For me, working in a creative industry, it is important to be inspired and invigorated by my surroundings. I choose mood-lifting colors and patterns in uplifting red and vibrant pattern, which spark interest and wake up the mind. It would be hard to feel tired or bored with these elements surrounding you!’
Matthew Williamson, interior and fashion designer, agrees: 'Home offices should be places entirely distinct from your home life,' he says. 'When you enter your home office, be it a separate room or even a corner in your living room, you should feel connected to whatever it is that you want to achieve that day. The way you decorate and furnish this space should be comfortable and inspiring, whether you surround yourself with plants, trinkets, and lamps, or whether you keep it sleek with simply a notepad and a stylish paperweight.
'My own home office is more of a studio. I keep my current visual projects on display around me to maintain the momentum of creative ideas, as well as to catalyze new ones. I love to be surrounded by color, materials, and patterns to help me visualize new design schemes or pieces for the home. My current workspace is in my lounge, so when I'm finished at work for the day, I hide that space with my new circular room divider from my collaboration with Roome London.'
6. Invest in an ergonomic chair
If you're spending six to eight hours a day in the same chair, it's worth investing in home office seating ideas with a supportive design. ‘A proper office chair can drastically improve your posture, reduce back pain, hips pressure and increase your productivity,’ says Emma Morley, founder of workspace design consultancy Trifle.
Most commercial office chairs still fail miserably on the looks front, but you can get similar features from domestic office chairs that are much more stylish.
‘The minimum you should seek from any office-based chair is height adjustment, swivel, lumbar support and casters,’ says Emma. ‘Aim for a chair height that allows your feet to rest flat on the floor with your hips parallel to your knees. The key point to remember however is to move – stretch, stand up and take regular breaks to maintain productivity throughout the day.’
7. Turn up the tunes
Never underestimate the power of music to boost productivity while you work from home. Listening to music has been proven to help you stay motivated, up productivity, and reduce anxiety. Choose faster tempo tracks – around 121 bpm – to increase performance or help maintain motivation at the end of the day. Dial it down to music with a bpm of around 60 when you need to focus.
Singing along to your favorite tunes is a great way to stay alert and entertained when performing repetitive or mindless tasks. However, lyrics can be distracting when undertaking tasks that require concentration so switch to acoustic tracks, ideally classical or symphonic, when you need more headspace to think.
8. Build in plenty of storage
‘To achieve a tranquil home office with a calming effect that aids focus, I always suggest starting with storage,’ says interior designer Andrea Benedettini. ‘By using built-in joinery with options for open and closed storage, we can make the most of the available footprint; this allows us to conceal the more functional items like printers and old files and lets us display beautiful objects that inspire us.’
Incorporating plentiful storage will help you achieve a clean, clutter-free desk, which is important for avoiding distractions. ‘Desk proportions are another crucial consideration. Having enough width and depth is key for avoiding a claustrophobic workspace, and I typically recommend a minimum depth of 28in/700mm for a standard desktop computer, but this can be reduced to around 24in/600mm if working on a laptop,’ adds Andrea.
9. Keep it clutter-free
For optimum home office productivity, your work space needs to be calming, tranquil, relaxing and free of clutter, says Camilia Clarke and Ottalie Stride of Albion Nord.
Camilia says: 'Usually, home is the sanctuary in which we can unwind after a testing day at the office. However, these days the home is the office. For those without a dedicated study or home office, create a space in which you can 'go to work' and leave once the day is done. This way, when you're out of your work nook, your home will still feel like a home.
'It is so important to differentiate areas of the home to really feel that sense of relief from work when you need it. Keep your work zone calm and clutter-free. Unsightly mess is only going to add any sense of agitation, so try to keep surfaces clear of anything that doesn't motivate you or inform the work you're doing.'
10. Write it down
We may live in a digital age, but the humble notebook and pen are still very effective tools for staying organized and maximizing your output. Starting the day by jotting down a plan of action or to-do list is a two-minute task that can reap huge rewards and help you stay on track from 9 to 5. Let’s not forget the extra gratification and joy to be had from owning and using really beautiful stationery – job satisfaction guaranteed!
11. Embrace biophilic design
Biophilic design – the concept of bringing the outside indoors – is an easy and inexpensive way to create an uplifting working environment infused with color and life. Simply increase the number of oxygen-boosting, air-purifying house plants in your home office to at least four to enhance productivity levels.
‘Plants can absorb carbon dioxide, eliminate harmful toxins and help us feel calm and more relaxed,’ says Linsey Skepper, creative director of Muchmore Design. ‘All these benefits add up to improving wellbeing, mental health and concentration.’
Available light levels will have an impact on what you can grow successfully and it’s wise to choose low maintenance, hardy houseplants to avoid the stress of wilted or browning foliage. Golden Pothos, Weeping Fig and English Ivy are considered superior for air purifying but the more plants you have the better.
12. Make it luxe
Andrew Martin's Martin Waller urges us to consider making the home office as luxurious as the rest of our interiors.
'2022 brings with it the continuation of home working, and so the home office becomes ever more pertinent,' he explains. 'This year we will be embracing combining a wide range of materials to create an uber-luxe and inspirational workspace.
'A home office must be designed as a space to induce thought. It wants to have crisp, clear lines, comfort and creative inspiration by way of artwork or patterned wallpaper. A desk light is a good way to add style and design-led angles to an office as well as being imperative for spot lighting. A chair has to be comfortable, but it is important to get the level of comfort right. From tactile faux shagreen and deep pile velvet, to sleek chrome and hammered iron there’s an abundant wealth of textures to choose from.'
13. Surround yourself with beauty
Kit Kemp, founder and creative director of Firmdale Hotels, brings her trademark eye for print, pattern and color to her work spaces.
She explains: 'Work spaces at home are very important. A place to put pen to paper or Zoom or computer studies. Everyone needs their private space or desk where they can concentrate.
'The importance of tea breaks and moments of inspiration are now solely our own venture. Having a clear space to sit and work at is paramount, but of course being surrounded by beautiful things is more important than ever to keep us feeling inspired, whether it's beautiful fresh flowers or a pretty reading lamp.'
She adds that beautiful pieces of furniture, like an antique writing desk, and colorful, vibrant prints and artwork can also inspire creativity.
How can I work more productively at home?
For many, working from home is the dream solution to improving work-life balance and escaping commuting horror. The most successful home office setups are designated workspaces, away from busy rooms and thoroughfares. It also helps to adopt practices you would follow in a commercial office, starting with getting dressed. Working in your PJs may be comfortable, but it won’t get you in the right frame of mind to knuckle down.
Establishing a morning routine, starting with writing a to-do list is another popular way to get motivated and make the most of your time. Use digital technology, like Apple’s Focus facility, to turn off disruptions from social media and other notifications while you work. It may sound counterproductive, but taking regular breaks can increase productivity, especially if you step outdoors for some fresh air.
Is it more productive to work from home?
According to a recent American study of full-time employees by Airtasker, those working from home spent less time avoiding work (15% difference) and did 1.4 more days of work per month than office-based workers. Furthermore, the study found that home workers lost less time to distractions, such as water cooler chat, than those in the office.
There is also the argument that you gain more office hours because your commute is non-existent. When working from home, you arrive at your desk fresh from the shower, not stressed and sweating from an overcrowded subway. Finally, sickness spreads quickly among co-workers and commuters, leading to more sick days per year for those travelling to work, than those staying at home.
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Linda graduated from university with a First in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting. Her career began on a trade title for the kitchen and bathroom industry, and she has worked for Homes & Gardens, and sister-brands Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, since 2006, covering interiors topics, though kitchens and bathrooms are her specialism.
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